School of Mathematics, Statistics & Computer Science

SAS Industry Unit to Enhance SMSCS Degree Relevance

Professor Delia North, Dean and Head of the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science (SMSCS), is driving the establishment of a Statistical Analysis System (SAS) Industry Unit at the School in an effort to further enhance the industry relevance of degrees within the SMSCS by delivering industry-infused Data Analytics training fit for the 4th Industrial Revolution.

North and UKZN’s most research-active applied statistician Professor Temesgen Zewotir have carefully planned the industry unit over many years.

Zewotir has a long record of industry and government projects undertaken with his postgraduate students.

SAS – the world’s leading business analytics and business intelligence advanced analytics software – stores, manages, retrieves and mines data from various sources, performs advanced statistical analysis, and enables creation of reports.

North has established a longstanding relationship with SAS through her work on collaborative national statistics education capacity-building projects while heading up the South African Statistical Association’s Education Committee.

The projects were undertaken with Mr Murray de Villiers, Senior Manager of SAS’s Global Academic Programs – an organisation which oversees SAS Industry Units at universities around the world.

UKZN and SAS have signed a new framework agreement entering into a partnership to establish the planned Industry Unit.

The Data Analytics Industry Unit that North and Zewotir are establishing with SAS will train students through a range of Bachelor of Science degrees in Data Science, at honours and masters level. Students will learn to manage, analyse, predict and classify large and unstructured data emanating from business and industry. A key feature of the initiative will be staff development, with Zewotir at the head of planning workshops and training sessions to ensure that the statistics staff in the department can optimally deliver on the aims of the Industry Unit.

Thanks to international SAS accreditation, the honours cohort of 2018 who passed a particular listing of modules will receive an international SAS accreditation certificate along with their degree in Statistics at the 2019 graduation ceremony, indicating their proficiency in SAS.

‘This inimitable data science centre will deliver top class training and research in data analytics by partnering with business and industry, as well as with the undisputed leading analytics tool developer [SAS],’ said North.

Through the qualifications on offer, statisticians at UKZN aim to provide early career training in data analytics to ensure that graduates are work-ready, innovative and equipped with entrepreneurial skills. The unit will also enhance industry-linked research and postgraduate studies by providing a learning experience that has emanated from the workplace as a base for postgraduate studies and innovative research.

Zewotir together with the Academic Leaders of Statistics and Computer Science, Professor Shaun Ramroop and Professor Serestina Virirri, designed and developed a Bachelor of Science degree in Data Science, available from 2019, and a Bachelor of Science Honours in Data Science on offer from 2020. A coursework Masters in Data Science for Industry and a postgraduate Diploma in Data Science for Industry are in the process of receiving final approval. Partnerships with industry and contracts are also in progress.

Housed in the Oliver Tambo Building on the Westville campus, the Industry Unit will, North says, be a wonderful resource for the nurturing of high-level Data Analytics skills for industry, and an opportunity for staff development through the international linkages that come with being part of the SAS Global Team.

words: Christine Cuénod

Photograph: Supplied